There is no cap on ideas on how to limit salaries

August 26, 1994|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Two weeks into a potentially season-ending baseball strike, the issue that separates the players and owners remains unchanged.

The owners want a salary cap. The players don't. And, it seems, never the twain shall meet.

So what's all this talk about flexibility?

The owners continue to insist that they'll consider alternatives to the salary cap so long as they address the need to predetermine the cost of doing business.

"We've examined other alternatives, and the union knows about them," Boston Red Sox CEO John Harrington said. "We've talked about tax plans, salary-scale type plans . . . they are not willing to discuss them."

The reason for that is relatively simple. They are all, in the union's opinion, variations on the same theme. They all limit the economic freedom of players in either a direct or an indirect way.

The "tax plan" concept would create a system by which large-market teams that go over a certain payroll limit are required to pay a surcharge on the excess salary and put it into a fund to subsidize the payrolls of small-market clubs.

If the average payroll was $30 million, for instance, the large market teams might have to pay a dollar into the fund for every dollar spent on payroll that exceeds that amount. The union opposes that kind of system because it discourages spending by the teams most able to afford it and would limit the earning potential of the game's top stars.

The salary scale concept is not new. The owners have retained the authority to determine the salary of players with one to three years of major league service -- which constitutes an informal salary scale.

According to a union official, the owners floated the possibility of a more formal arrangement that would have set salaries for players with one to four years of service, but found no interest in that approach, either.

The union did submit a number of revenue-sharing ideas to the owners earlier in the negotiations, but all were rejected because they did not put a limit on labor costs.

"I like the analogy I heard from someone in our office," union associate general counsel Eugene Orza said. "It's like someone saying, 'I've got to get to Los Angeles in five hours, but it doesn't have to be by plane. If you can find me another way to get to L.A. in five hours, I'm all ears.' "

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